Hiring a plumber is easy, right? You just pick up the phone and call one of the many plumbers in Toronto who are listed in the online directories, the Yellow Pages, or wherever. It’s not that simple, however; as with every other type of contractor, some plumbers are “more equal” than others. When it comes to finding the right contractor for your needs, it’s best to add a little scientific research into the mix. It’s best to do this well ahead of any planned renovations or plumbing work, or before you have an emergency that needs immediate attention.
Ask Family and Friends
Start the process of hiring a plumber by checking with people close to you, such as family members, colleagues, and friends. Collect the names of plumbers that others have actually used, not just people they happen to know. Avoid giving preference to any plumbers just because they are related to somebody; being part of a person’s bloodline doesn’t mean you’ll get a good job. The plumber is still only as good as his former work and service to customers.
Keep a List
Make a list of potential plumbers as you get names and keep them in a safe place. The day you have an emergency you won’t have plenty of time to spend hiring a plumber – you’ll need to know who to call right away. Make notes alongside the names of any other information available, such as the length of time the plumber has been in business, who referred him or her to you, and what the contractor’s areas of specialization are.
You can do this either before asking for estimates or once you have them before you make your final choice of contractor. Whatever you decide, before hiring a plumber to work on your premises you should check the company’s credentials, such as:
- Length of time in business
Verify whether the plumber has insurance cover for any accidents that take place on your premises, both to his staff and your family. Ask for written details of the warranty available on any work he does – once the job is done and paid for, if something goes wrong then you won’t have a leg to stand on!
Get Written Quotes…
…even if it’s on a napkin! That’s right – it’s easy when you’re planning a big reno job to spend time getting written estimates, but what about when you’re hiring a plumber in the proverbial emergency? Obviously it’s preferable to have a detailed quote, but in the absence of one anything in writing from the plumber will help to serve as a confirmation of the price. That way, if you suddenly get a bill for a ridiculous amount you can prove that the price you agreed was lower. Also ask for written information on payment structure, terms and conditions, and warranty issues.
Understand the Costs
Make sure you clearly understand the labor costs included. If a contractor is unsure about how long a job will take, he may well write down an hourly charge, which you take to mean the total labor cost. Unless it’s specified, ask for clarification on whether the charges shown on the estimate are hourly or otherwise.
It’s always best to get several estimates before hiring a plumber, especially for a large contract. Before you ask various contractors to quote, make a list of the work that needs to be done and if possible, separate it into categories. In a big reno, this could be separated by room, e.g. bathroom, kitchen, etc. If you know something about plumbing, you might choose to break it up by task, such as water installation or upgrade, a drainage system and hot water heater. However, you present it, carefully compare the written estimates you get back to make sure that each plumbing contractor has quoted on the same services.
Before hiring a plumber, always check the company’s references personally. Anyone can produce written testimonials from anonymous or first-name-only clients who might not exist! Ask the plumber you are considering to provide you with a list of satisfied clients and their contact information. Call at least one or two of the references provided and ask questions such as:
- Was all work done as per the estimate?
- Did the plumber adhere to the original quote, or consult with the client before incurring additional charges?
- Did he or she produce quality work that has lasted?
If you hear any bad reports, take the issue up with the plumber and hear his side of the story before you make a decision.
Take Steps Now
Take steps now to be prepared for hiring a plumber when you need one, whether it’s an emergency or a planned job. Contact your local plumbers for qualifications, insurance, and warranty information, find out what their payment terms are and check references if possible. Ask for details of their emergency response times, and add them to your list of contractors to call when you need one, and you can rest assured that you won’t need to resort to phoning an expensive, untested plumber in a time of need.